Ice Damming, what is it?

During our home inspections, sometimes we see signs of water leaks in the ceiling where the ceiling meets the roof. This is usually caused by “Ice Damming”. Ice damming is caused by snow melting on the roof and then dripping down towards the gutters where it freezes again and builds up ice and a little “pond” forms on the lower portion of the roof and gutters. The pond gets bigger as more and more snow melts and then freezes down by the gutter. Eventually, the water backs up under the roof shingles which causes the leaks.

What makes this happen? The attic is too warm, thereby causing the snow to melt on the roof. If you do have this problem, we recommend that you deal with it because it can cause wood rot and mold above the ceiling and inside the wall. It can also attract wood-destroying insects like termites.

Because your attic is too warm, you have an opportunity to save energy while fixing the ice damming issue. The first approach to fixing the problem is to stop warm air from getting into your attic. That means sealing openings between your attic and the living space. This may require additional insulation and/or blocking any openings between the living space and the attic, such as openings around electrical wires, high-hat light fixtures, plumbing pipes, dryer, and bathroom vents. By the way, sometimes bathroom vent fans and clothing dryers discharge warm air directly into the attic which will raise the temperature in the attic. Ideally, the attic temperature should be similar to the exterior temperature.

Of course, this is a very brief description of ice damning and there is a lot more information on the web if you’re interested in learning more about the subject.

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Roof Shingles

Is it okay to have 2 or 3 Layers of Roofing?

During our home inspections, we often see more than one layer of roof shingles.  In fact, sometimes we see 3 or 4 layers of roofing materials which can cause several problems.

1)  Most roof shingle manufacturers will not honor their warranty if there is more than a single layer of roofing shingles.

2) Most building codes do not allow a 3rd layer.

3) The 2nd and 3rd layers of roofing shingles are prone to blowing off in the wind.

4) Shingles have a shorter lifespan due to overheating from the sun.

5) having more than one layer impacts the aesthetics.

6)  In addition, roofing materials are very heavy and could easily add up to 10,000 pounds on an average sized roof which puts additional stress on the roof rafters which ultimately translates all the way down through the framing of the house and to the foundation.

7) And very importantly, unless all the shingles are removed, the condition of the roof sheathing (the wood below the shingles) can’t be observed, so consequently, there may be deteriorated roof sheathing that should be replaced but can’t.  Occasionally, someone falls through the roof because the wood under the shingles is completely deteriorated due to long term water leakage.

8) most inspectors will comment that a 2nd or 3rd layer of shingles is a negative condition.

There are some advantages to going with a second layer of roofing material: it’s cheaper, and a bit faster.  But taking the pros and cons into consideration, the benefits of keeping a single layer of roofing far outweighs the cons.

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How much is a New Roof?

One of the more expensive items that come up during our home inspections are old roofs that need replacement older style basic 3-tab shingles have a life expectancy of approximately 20 years. Newer style “architectural” shingles (the most common these days) have a life expectancy of about 30 years and are much more attractive. There are upgraded architectural shingles available that can have a life expectancy of 50 or more years. Slate roofs can last hundreds of years!

Is a new roof really needed?  Perfectly good roofs sometimes leak around chimneys or other penetrations. Sometimes roofs have mechanical damage from falling branches, and wind. So, they can be dealt with by repairs rather than replacement. Roof repairs can be in the hundreds of dollars while roof replacement is thousands of dollars.

According to several websites, the average roof replacement performed by licensed and qualified roofing contractors for a typical 2,500 SF ranch style house ranges between $7,000 and $13,000 (architectural style shingles). This includes removing the existing roof shingles, which is highly recommended for longevity and is required by the shingle manufacturer in-order to honor the warranty.

Of course, there are many variables in the pricing, but I hope this basic information is of benefit to you.

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